Republican Assemblyman Tom McClintock, defeated by a surprisingly wide margin by Democratic Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson, abruptly announced Wednesday that he is quitting politics.
McClintock, a 10-year lawmaker known as a rising star among conservatives, lost by a lopsided 56% to 38.6% margin Tuesday in what had been considered a tight race for a congressional seat based in the southwestern San Fernando Valley.
"I don't expect to remain in politics," said McClintock, his voice sounding choked, in a telephone interview from his Thousand Oaks home.
"I've put in 10 years of public service. I have a family that I need to think about as well. I just think at this juncture I need to make provisions for them," he said.
McClintock, 36, responded with a flat "no" when asked if he would challenge Beilenson again in 1994 in the affluent, suburban 24th Congressional District, which stretches from Sherman Oaks to Malibu and north to Thousand Oaks.
Meanwhile, Beilenson, a veteran liberal, spent Wednesday taking congratulatory calls in his Tarzana office while clad casually in a blue shirt, flowered tie and old pants.
The congressman, 60, said he expected to win the race all along. But aides in both his and McClintock's camp seemed stunned by the margin.
"We creamed him, didn't we?" said Beilenson campaign manager Craig Miller.
"I sure didn't expect 18 points," McClintock manager Greg Maw said.
Beilenson said a key factor in his victory was his longstanding refusal to accept campaign donations from special-interest groups--and he pledged to immediately try to enlist President-elect Bill Clinton in an effort to ban special-interest money from politics.
"I don't mean to put aside the economy and jobs, but this is a basic underlying problem we could possibly solve right away," he said.
The congressman repeatedly attacked McClintock during the campaign for his heavy reliance on campaign funds from special-interest political action committees, or PACs. From July 1 to late October, nearly half of McClintock's funds came from PACs, including beer wholesalers, car dealers, oil companies, chiropractors and others.
During the race, McClintock also acknowledged hiring a Virginia political consultant who solicited more than 500 PACs on his behalf.
In one campaign brochure, Beilenson contended that PACs had McClintock "in their pocket," saying the assemblyman had accepted $928,000 in special-interest funds during his decade in the Legislature.
Miller said Beilenson's no-PAC policy struck a chord with voters because special-interest funds figured so prominently in the savings and loan scandal, and because presidential candidate Ross Perot also took aim at PACs in his campaign.
Beilenson also attributed his victory to his long support for legalized abortion. As a state senator in 1967, he authored legislation liberalizing California abortion laws. He was strongly backed by abortion rights groups, which pledged to supply dozens of volunteers to his campaign.
McClintock opposes government funding of abortions for poor women and favors restrictions on abortion, though he believes it should remain legal.
In an effort to undercut McClintock in his own party, Beilenson's campaign sent more than 70,000 mail brochures to Republican women in the district, outlining the candidates' differences on the issue.
Beilenson also played up his environmental credentials, touting his role in creating public parks in the Santa Monica Mountains to environmentally conscious voters in Topanga Canyon, Malibu and the Calabasas-Agoura Hills area.
He sought to portray McClintock as a right-wing extremist and pariah within the Republican Party, often citing the assemblyman's vocal opposition to tax hikes backed by GOP Gov. Pete Wilson last year.
Early in the race, Beilenson's rejection of PAC money caused speculation that he might not be able to raise sufficient funds to run against McClintock. Miller said a number of House colleagues "really pressured" Beilenson to start taking such money.
But Beilenson ran a surprisingly successful fund-raising operation, and wound up spending nearly $600,000--almost twice as much as his rival.
The money came from 2,200 individuals, many of them wealthy constituents in the congressman's old Westside district. His givers included numerous lawyers, environmentalists and Hollywood figures, among them director Steven Spielberg and producer Norman Lear.
Many fund-raising calls were made by Beilenson's wife, Dolores, and longtime Westside activist Erma Collen--an old family friend, Miller said.
Beilenson has faced no serious opposition in recent elections and had little need to raise large campaign war chests. In 1990, he was one of only a handful of House incumbents outspent by a challenger.
He said his fund raising for the McClintock face-off was based on two ideas: developing new donors in the Valley district and hitting up affluent Westside donors more than once.